Young entrepreneurs learn a thing or two about growing a business in the Startup Sprint, the first phase of the Bootcamp Program.
Beanbags, good food, and lots of coffee. Beirut Digital District buzzes with fresh ideas, participants looking to leave a mark, mentors in neon vests – so they’re seen when they’re needed. This is the Startup Sprint, the first phase of our Bootcamp program.
The Startup Sprint creates a space for aspiring entrepreneurs to walk in with their raw material: an idea, a team, and their will to learn and work hard. In just four days, teams meet with a group of over twenty volunteering mentors with an array of sector expertise from across the globe, who in turn coach them in preparation for their pitch. In 2017, we’re adding a twist: the Startup Sprint is now themed. February was all about social impact, coming up with scalable, profitable, investible businesses finding solutions for critical human need.
Our founder and CFO, Samer Azar, perfectly describes the February edition of the Startup Sprint as “positively intoxicating.” The adrenaline is high as 25 startup teams begin their entrepreneurial journey in an environment of healthy competition. “These four days represent the face of Lebanon as we would like to see it, a microcosm of what should come to be on a larger scale […] we believe in positive competition, where ideas coming together is so much more valuable than receiving a symbolic prize after a successful pitch.” Mentors unanimously agreed; they were pleasantly surprised with how truly invested all the participants were.
Naila (Marketing), Richard (Investment), and Marielle (Entrepreneurship), three Sprint mentors who shared their thoughts on their overall experience, found it a breeding ground for collaboration and networking. In an informal setting, they got the chance to connect with participants on a personal level, young people with “high ambition, [and] zero attitude,” as Richard put it. “They come up and grab me whenever they need my help,” said Naila, who struggled at first to detach and allow the teams to make their own decisions and changes as they see fit, based on all they were learning throughout, from mentor counseling and lightning talks that were equally informative for mentors as they were for participants. “I’ve never seen anything like this; I’m addicted to this experience,” she added.
The Team Members:
On the other side, team members - hungry for learning - expressed their excitement after their pitches. They were grateful to have had the chance to discuss their ideas with professionals whose opinions they could trust, meet like-minded individuals who supported and inspired them to work harder for their own projects, and walk out with so much information and learning in their back pocket to keep at their plans to develop their ideas and execute them in business.
In short, we have yet again created a space where young and bold entrepreneurs can express themselves and determine who they want to be. “It’s a real personal journey, where deeper issues are shared: self-limiting beliefs, cultural and personal issues. This is a platform that allows for building a relationship capital,” said Richard. “Other accelerators [only] focus on the business side of things, AltCity’s training program allows for talent nurturing rooting the process in experiential learning,” he added.
Over the course of the past two years, we have channeled our focus on startup support and performance improvement. With over 300 entrepreneurs trained, the best of which have received up to $850,000 worth of early stage investment, we have now become a main feeder of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the proud grandfathers of over 150 startup success stories.
The Upcoming Startup Sprints:
Upcoming Startup Sprints will focus on the growing sectors in Lebanon, including FinTech, since banking and finance are some of the big pillars of the Lebanese economy. Future Sprints will likely cover education and media in the later cycles of 2017. The Sprint's goal remains to push innovation forward and prepare the future leaders of the entrepreneurial arena. After the Sprint, top teams get selected for Phase 2 of Bootcamp, which is certainly not for the faint of heart. Phase 2 is more selective and customized for teams who have proven a strong commitment to their startup and willingness to learn. In every step of the way, they are challenged to validate their ideas with the business skills they have learned. Successful startups then graduate to later stage accelerator programs, and in due time, are put in contact with relevant, regional and worldwide investors.
Together, we can leave a mark on Lebanon.